• Web Chat is available when the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline is open.
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HOURS OF OPERATION
Monday thru Friday: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Saturday: 10:30 AM - 6:30 PM
Sunday: 2:00 PM - 6:30 PM
The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline is the statewide resource for HIV, AIDS, and STD-related information, community referrals, and short-term supportive counseling. Callers receive information on HIV and AIDS-related issues including locations of testing sites and program services in Florida.
Please explore our web site or start a Web Chat above if you need any additional information. If you would like to search for a community referral, search the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline Statewide Database. For additional HIV and AIDS information visit Florida's Know Your HIV Status (www.knowyourhivstatus.com) website.
If you live outside of Florida, visit the HRSA Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to find an AIDS hotline near you.
We are funded by the Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, Bureau of Communicable Diseases.
Please note this site contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. A virus is a small collection of genetic code surrounded by a protein coat. A virus cannot replicate alone. Viruses use components of the host cell to make copies of themselves. Only humans get HIV, so you don't have to worry about transmission from a pet or a mosquito.
HIV-1 is the type of HIV that is most commonly found in the United States and Canada. Several subtypes (sometimes referred to as strains) or variants ofHIV-1 have been identified, and again, only one, HIV-1 subtype B is common in the United States and Canada. HIV-2 is another type of HIV. HIV-2 is an uncommon virus in the United States and Canada.
It is widely accepted in the medical and scientific research community that HIV is linked to immune system malfunction. HIV is a chronic and manageable health condition if people are in care and treatment. Having HIV does not mean you have or will get AIDS.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to have a specific test. In addition to standard blood tests, there are approved HIV tests that use cells from the mouth or urine. There are also home collection kits that can be used to collect blood samples. Check with your state's HIV hotline to get more information about the tests available in your area.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)It is the result of a weakened immune system caused by HIV transmission. AIDS is diagnosed when a person is living with HIV and also has one or more of the "opportunistic infections" of AIDS (there are 27) and/or has a laboratory marker test of 200 or fewer T-cells. AIDS should be diagnosed by a physician. The opportunistic infections associated with AIDS are called "AIDS-defining illnesses" and should also be diagnosed by a physician.
Both HIV and AIDS are considered to be chronic illnesses managed with both pharmaceutical (pharmacy drugs) therapies and complementary (alternative) therapies. In most cases, people can live for many years with HIV and/or AIDS. Today's HIV therapies are extending the lives of persons living with AIDS as well as helping to improve their quality of life.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted by six body fluids: blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid or "pre-cum", vaginal secretions, rectal fluids, and nursing mother's breast milk. These fluids must come into contact with a portal of entry such as a mucous membrane (tip of the penis, mouth, vagina, etc.) or an open cut in the skin. HIV cannot pass through intact skin. HIV is only transmitted by behaviors that allow such direct contact with these fluids.
Which sexual activities will make me more behaviorally vulnerable to HIV?
Any activity where a portal of entry (mouth, the tip of the penis, vagina) comes into direct contact with anyone or combination of the previously-mentioned fluids. It is recommended that any sexual intercourse (including oral and anal sex) be one with a barrier (such as a latex or polyurethane condom) between partners to guard both people from vulnerable contact.
Can I get HIV from oral sex?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about transmission. Like all sexual activity, oral sex is a vulnerability to transmission, particularly when one partner or the other is known to be living with HIV, when either partner's HIV status is not known, and/or when one or the other partner is not monogamous or injects drugs. Numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The only ways individuals can be completely protected from the sexual transmission of HIV include abstaining from oral, anal, and vaginal sex altogether, or having sex only with a mutually monogamous partner who is not living with HIV. Measuring the exact likelihood of HIV transmission as a result of oral sex is very difficult. Since most sexually active individuals practice oral sex in addition to vaginal and/or anal sex, it is challenging to determine whether or not it occurred as a result of oral sex, or other vulnerable sexual activities.
Several co-factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex, including oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, and the presence of other STDs. This is why it is important to get tested for HIV. For more information, visit the CDC HIV/AIDS Fact Sheets.
How can I get an HIV test?
In the State of Florida, any person can be tested for HIV at any of the county health departments and approved community-based organizations.
The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline has a listing of all units that offer HIV tests. Most health departments request an appointment, charge a nominal fee (often on a sliding scale), and offer the test anonymously and/or confidentially.
Anonymous testing means that nothing ties your test results to you. When you take an anonymous HIV test, you get a unique identifier that allows you to get your test results.
Confidential testing means that your name and other identifying information will be attached to your test results. The results will go in your medical record and may be shared with your health care providers and your health insurance company. Otherwise, the results are protected by state and federal privacy laws, and they can be released only with your permission.
When should I get tested for HIV?
The time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can tell for sure whether they have HIV is called the window period. The window period varies from person to person and depends on the type of test used to detect HIV. If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, the CDC recommends getting tested again after the window period.
No HIV test can detect HIV immediately after infection. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours, talk to your health care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), right away.
A nucleic acid test (NAT) can usually tell you if you have HIV infection 10 to 33 days after exposure. It looks for the actual virus in the blood and involves drawing blood from a vein. The test can either tell if a person has HIV or tell how much virus is present in the blood (known as an HIV viral load test). While a NAT can detect HIV sooner than other types of tests, this test is very expensive and not routinely used for screening individuals unless they recently had a high-risk exposure or a possible exposure and have early symptoms of HIV infection.
An antigen/antibody test performed by a laboratory on blood from a vein can usually detect HIV infection 18 to 45 days after exposure. Antigen/antibody tests done with blood from a finger prick can take longer to detect HIV (18 to 90 days after an exposure). You may have also heard of antigen/antibody tests as “fourth-generation tests.” They look for both HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by your immune system when you’re exposed to viruses like HIV. Antigens are foreign substances that cause your immune system to activate. If you have HIV, an antigen called p24 is produced even before antibodies develop. Antigen/antibody tests are recommended for testing done in labs and are now common in the United States. This lab test involves drawing blood from a vein. There is also a rapid antigen/antibody test available that is done with a finger prick.
Antibody tests can take 23 to 90 days to detect HIV infection after exposure. Most rapid tests and self-tests are antibody tests. You may have heard of antibody tests also being called “third-generation tests.” In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid. They only look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid. Most rapid tests and the only currently approved HIV self-test are antibody tests.
Ask your health care provider about the window period for the test you’re taking. If you’re using a home test, you can get that information from the materials included in the test’s package. If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, the CDC recommends to tested again after the window period for the test you’re taking to be sure.
What are the types of testing?
You have several HIV testing options. Your health care provider, local clinic, and a hospital can utilize several body fluids to detect HIV. This includes blood, oral fluid, or urine. Blood may be drawn from the vein or via finger prick, depending on the test type.
You may also purchase a mail-in self-test kit to collect the specimen in the privacy of your own home. The sample is then sent to a lab for testing and the results are provided by a health care provider. Mail-in self-tests can be ordered through various online merchant sites. Your health care provider can also order a mail-in self-test for you.
OraQuick is a rapid self-test that can also be purchased at a pharmacy or online. Only rapid self-test currently available in the US is an oral fluid test. This is the same oral swab test offered at clinics and you may know your results in 20 minutes. Most kits are around $40. If you are a Florida resident, you can order a free OraQuick test through Know Your HIV Status.
How reliable are the tests and should I trust them?
The test reliability increases with time. The longer you wait from the time of exposure to the time of taking the test, the better the reliability. If no HIV antibodies appear in your blood within three to six months after exposure, and you haven't participated in any other high-risk behaviors, there is a 99.9% likelihood that you do not have HIV. The Centers for Disease Control advises that you wait at least three months to take an initial HIV blood test. This will ensure very high reliability of the tests.
HIV Risk Reduction
Anyone can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV:
1. Get tested for HIV. Talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. Call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline for a testing location near you.
2. Choose less vulnerable sexual behaviors. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
3. Use condoms every time you have sex. Read this fact sheet from the CDC on how to use condoms correctly.
4. Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with poorly controlled HIV or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
5. Get tested and treated for STDs. Insist that your partners get tested and treated, too. Having an STD can increase your risk of getting HIV or spreading it to others.
6. Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don't have HIV but who are at risk of getting HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day to reduce the risk of getting HIV.
7. Don't inject drugs. But if you do, use only sterile drug injection equipment and never share your equipment with others. A disinfected syringe is not as good as anew, sterile syringe, but it can greatly reduce your risk for HIV. Read more from the CDC on how to clean your syringes.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a medicine that you can take that can lower your chances of getting HIV. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at a high risk of getting HIV. Instead, a pill is taken each day. PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed. Although there is less information about how effective PrEP is among people who inject drugs, we do know that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken as prescribed.
It may be helpful to speak to your health care provider about PrEP if you:
· Don’t regularly use condoms.
· Have a sexual partner who has HIV (sometimes called sero-different couples).
· Have a sexual partner who is at high risk for getting HIV (like if they have anal or vaginal sex with other people without condoms, or they’re an injection drug user).
· Have anal or vaginal sex with many partners, especially if you don’t use condoms regularly.
· Recently had another STD.
· Do sex work that includes vaginal or anal sex.
· Have injected drugs, shared needles, or been in treatment for drug use in the past 6 months.
For locations to obtain PrEP, check out the nation-wide PrEP Locator, the Florida Department of Health’s HIV PrEP and nPEP Providers List or call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline for a referral.
CDC PrEP Consumer Info Sheets
Post-Exposure Anaphylaxis (PEP)
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after recent possible exposure to HIV. You take PEP 1-2 times a day for at least 28days. The medicines used in PEP are called antiretroviral medications (ART). These medicines work by stopping HIV from spreading through your body.
PEP is for emergencies. It can’t take the place of proven, ongoing ways to prevent HIV - like using condoms, taking PrEP, and not sharing needles or works. If your nurse or doctor gives you PEP, you’ll need to take medicine 1-2 times a day for at least 28 days (4 weeks). It’s important that you take every pill as directed and don’t skip doses, otherwise, PEP may not work as well.
If you need PEP, you can head to your nearest emergency room. You can also check out the Florida Department of Health’s HIV PrEP and nPEP Providers List or call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline for a referral.
Living with HIV and becoming sick from AIDS are two different events (read more about the difference between HIV and AIDS). For most people, it takes many years from the time someone begins living with HIV to the time that they develop symptoms of AIDS. Some people get sick sooner and others stay well longer, especially with treatment. However, there is almost always a significant period after transmission when an individual living with HIV will have no symptoms at all – often 10 years or more.
Keeping in mind the two separate events (living with HIV vs. actually developing AIDS) can help you to remember that there are also two separate periods when someone may show symptoms related to HIV.
Acute Viral Syndrome
The first period is during the first few weeks after HIV transmission. Some people may develop flu-like symptoms within the first month or so after getting HIV. These early symptoms can feel very much like the flu (fever, headache, weakness, fatigue, body aches, etc.), and they can be mild or severe. The flu-like symptoms typically last for only about a week and then go away on their own. Acute Viral Syndrome is not an ongoing condition that lasts for weeks and weeks or that comes and goes over a long period. It's important to know the following:
1. Not everyone who has HIV will experience these early, flu-like symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome. Many people will have no symptoms at all until years after becoming HIV+.
2. The symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome are the same as the symptoms of the flu and many other illnesses. If you have these symptoms right after a possible exposure to HIV, it does not mean you have HIV, or even that you probably have it. The only way to find out if you have HIV is to get an HIV test.
Chronic HIV/Clinical Latency
HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this phase. Without taking HIV medicine, this period may last a decade or longer, but some may progress faster. People can transmit HIV in this phase. At the end of this phase, the amount of HIV in the blood (called viral load) goes up and the CD4 cell count goes down. The person may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person has a higher risk of being diagnosed with AIDS. People who adhere to their HIV medication as prescribed and manage their health never move past this stage.
Transition to AIDS
People receive an AIDS diagnosis when they are already living with HIV and their CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm, or if they develop certain opportunistic infections, each with specific symptoms. For this reason, there isn't a simple checklist of "AIDS symptoms". Two people who are both sick with AIDS can have completely different sets of symptoms (or even no symptoms at all).
If you have symptoms that are bothering you or that aren't going away, your best option is to be checked by a health care provider. Any symptom that could be a sign of AIDS could also be a sign of something else. Again, the only way to know if you are living with HIV is to take an HIV test.
Take Time to Process the News
HIV diagnoses may trigger an array of difficult feelings – this is perfectly normal. Receiving an HIV diagnosis can be life-changing. You may feel many emotions, such as sadness, hopelessness, or anger. Allied health care providers and social service providers can help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis. They are often available at your health care provider’s office. You can also call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline for short-term supportive counseling and referrals to local support services, such as support groups.
Find HIV Care
If you have a primary health care provider, that person may know how to treat HIV. A primary healthcare provider is someone who manages your regular medical care and annual tests. If your primary health care provider does not know to treat HIV, they can refer you to an HIV health care provider. Call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline if you need assistance with finding a local HIV health care provider. With the right treatment and care, you can live a long and healthy life with HIV.
It would also be beneficial to consider seeking out case management for HIV services. Being newly diagnosed can be confusing, so case managers are there to help you with navigating HIV care. They can help link you with health care, psychosocial, and other services provided by trained professionals. Case managers also help health care providers coordinate and implement care plans for their clients. The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline can help you find the nearest agency with case management.
Start HIV Treatment As Soon As Possible After Diagnosis
Get in care and take medicine to treat HIV (called antiretroviral therapy or ART). Taking HIV medicine can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood (called viral load). HIV medicine can make the viral load very low (called viral suppression). Viral suppression is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load).
Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. Having an undetectable viral load also helps prevent transmission to others. If you have an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex. Most people can get the virus under control within six months. Read more about U=U here.
Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section
Factsheets about the burden of HIV in Florida can be found here, and these factsheets are updated with new HIV data each year.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
HIV/AIDS Basic Statistics
Easy-to-read summary reports based on the CDC semiannual HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report (the comprehensive report is also available).
UNAIDS: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
AIDS Epidemic Update
Global HIV/AIDS statistics and epidemiological fact sheets by country.
Florida's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)
ADAP is intended to help people living with HIV stay healthy by assisting with the purchase of HIV prescription medications. ADAP provides HIV drug treatments for people who are uninsured or do not have adequate prescription coverage.
Who Is Eligible For ADAP In Florida?
To be eligible you must:
Be living with HIV with proof from a physician,
Have an income less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines,
Be uninsured or without adequate prescription coverage, and
Not confined to a hospital, nursing home, hospice, or correctional facility.
Who Is Not Eligible For ADAP In Florida?
Persons: in institutional care (i.e. hospital or correctional facility),
with health insurance that covers pharmaceuticals or Medicaid,
with an income above 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and
Persons with assets over $25,000, excluding a home and car.
How Do I Enroll In ADAP?
Visit your local Ryan White Lead Agency and complete the application. and apply. Unfortunately, due to limited funding, not everyone who applies for services and is otherwise eligible will receive services. Should ADAP services be unavailable, other possible funding options can be sought with the assistance of a case manager or health department staff.
What Do I Need?
At the time of enrollment, you need to have in hand: Documentation you are living with HIV, prescriptions from a Florida licensed doctor, current(less than four months) viral load and/or CD4 test results.
What Medicines Are Covered By ADAP?
The Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, Bureau of Communicable Diseases maintains a listing current of ADAP medicines.
If you do not qualify for ADAP, you may still qualify for Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) and Patient Assistance Programs (PAP). There are over 180 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies that provide free or low-cost drugs for individuals who cannot afford to pay for them. Each program has specific eligibility criteria and coverage. You can find further information at 1-888-477-2669
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Florida's Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) What is HOPWA?
The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS, known as HOPWA, is funded through a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide states and designated eligible metropolitan areas with resources and incentives for meeting the housing needs of persons with HIV and AIDS. The Department of Health, which contracts with lead agency organizations at the local level, administers Florida's HOPWA program.
Housing for Better Health
What Services are Provided?
The state HOPWA program provides temporary housing assistance to eligible individuals. Transitional housing, assistance with rent, mortgage, utilities, and supportive services (such as case management) services are provided to income-eligible individuals with documented HIV disease and their families. Services not approved include payments that exceed actual costs, payments made directly to clients, cash payments of any kind (including checks made out to cash), property taxes that are not included in mortgage payments, long-distance telephone charges, fines and penalties, down payment or closing costs on a home. HOPWA is not available in every county. To learn more, contact the HOPWA lead agencies.
The HIV/AIDS Hotline has received reports about fraudulent activities associated with HIV and/or AIDS. If you know or suspect a business or person is selling or advertising fraudulent health products or services you can help stop them and protect others by reporting it. You can report health fraud in Florida by calling the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline.
What You Should Know About HIV AND/OR AIDS Fraud
Health care fraud, in general, is a serious problem. No part of the healthcare system is free of fraud - not supplies, hospitals, insurers, home healthcare, or even physicians. Specifically, HIV and/or AIDS fraud is the promotion of an HIV and/or AIDS-related health product, treatment, or service known to be false or labeled with unsupported claims. Fraud can include but is not limited to treatment, nutrition, mechanical devices, burial fees, drugs, and supplements. Victims of fraud may include partners, family, and friends as well.
HIV and/or AIDS Fraud Is Expensive
Fraudulent products and services can be expensive; they waste your money, and health insurance does not pay for them. Be wary of any HIV and/or AIDS product, treatment, or service that seems to have an unusually high cost, or carries an "extra charge "just because someone has HIV and/or AIDS.
HIV and/or AIDS Fraud Is Dangerous
If you use products or services that don't work you may delay getting proper medical care. Your illness may also get worse. There are legitimate treatments that extend the life and improve the quality of life in persons living with HIV and/or AIDS, even though there is no cure for HIV and/or AIDS. Fraudulent products are not scientifically tested. If you use fraudulent products, they may hurt you. You could even die.
You Can Help Stop HIV and/or AIDS Fraud
Be suspicious of statements that promise quick and painless cures for HIV and/or AIDS, or those treatments that are "special", "foreign", "secret", "miraculous", "ancient" or "easy". Ask questions of the promoters regarding the product's approval and side effects. Request all printed material on the product and its promoters.
HIV and/or AIDS Fraud-Fighting Resources
The following resources provide reliable information about HIV and/or AIDS treatments:
HIV and AIDS Activities
New Mexico AIDS InfoNet
How To Recognize Quacks and Frauds
• The practitioner states that he/she is a medical professional but has a name that is followed by titles, degrees, or credentials which are unknown or unidentifiable.
• The practitioner claims that most or all Americans are poorly nourished.
• Claims are made that medical treatments are dangerous.
• Supplements are recommended for everyone.
• Disclaimers are couched in pseudo-medical jargon.
• Product is marketed with testimonials and anecdotes. Empirical (scientific) data is missing, dated, or conducted in a clinic or setting with no known reputation.
• The practitioner claims that he/she, the product, or both are being suppressed by the government.
• The product is marketed with terms such as, "ancient", "newly emerging research", "mystical", or "secret."
• The product is marketed to treat almost every illness and condition under the sun.
• Product is "experimental", yet you will be charged to purchase or use it.
Remember, you can report AIDS health fraud by calling the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS, texting FLHIV or flhiv to 898211, or starting a Web Chat.
STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections or STIs, come in a variety of types. There are fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses.
What is the connection between HIV and other STDs?
1. Several STDs cause lesions or open sores to occur which may serve as portals of entry directly into the bloodstream and better facilitate HIV transmission.
2. Some STDs are considered to be co-factors that assist in the immune system malfunction of AIDS.
3. People who leave themselves open to the transmission of STDs also leave themselves vulnerable to HIV transmission.
How do I get tested for STDs?
For fungal or bacterial infections, you can be tested as soon as two weeks after exposure. For viral infections, you will have to wait for your body to produce enough antibodies to that specific virus to take what is called a "titer" blood test. That time is generally three months after exposure. An important rule of thumb: should you experience any symptoms after sexual contact, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician as soon as possible. Letting symptoms get worse or putting off STD testing can result in severe illness, sterility, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, passing a STD to your next partner, irreversible damage to your nervous system, or even death. Within the state of Florida, all Public Health Departments offer STD testing. The HIV/AIDS Hotline has a listing of STD test sites throughout the state.
Where can I get more information about STDs?
If you live in Florida and you have questions or concerns about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you can call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS, text FLHIV or flhiv to 898211, or start a Web Chat. If you live outside of Florida, visit the HRSA Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to find an HIV and/or AIDS hotline near you.Disclaimer: This information is not meant to self-diagnose or replace the advice of a medical professional.